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Expert picks are back for the Nitto ATP Finals semis on Saturday, when a mouth-watering lineup features the top four players in the world. A three-team panel previews the action and makes its predictions.
(1R) Carlos Alcaraz vs. (2G) Novak Djokovic
Ricky: When the tournament began, this is the best possible semifinal lineup for which anyone could have hoped–especially the Italian crowd since Jannik Sinner is involved. But not even Sinner will get night-session treatment on Saturday because also on the menu is this showdown between the world No. 1 (Novak Djokovic) and the world No. 2 (Carlos Alcaraz). Outside of a cramp-marred French Open showdown, every single Djokovic-Alcaraz match to date has been an instant classic (and even that one aberration had the makings of the same before the Spaniard was undone physically). Another blockbuster battle should be in the cards. I can’t pick against Djokovic given his near-perfect record since Wimbledon (his only loss during this stretch came against Sinner in a three-set thriller on Tuesday) and because he has won this title six times. But Alcaraz has regained his form just in time to give us another wildly entertaining affair. Djokovic in 3: 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5.
Cheryl: Djokovic and Alcaraz are the current marquee match-up in men’s tennis. Their final at the Cincinnati Masters is one of the finest best-of-three tennis matches I’ve ever seen. We haven’t seen the same Alcaraz this fall. Since his semifinal loss at the U.S. Open at the hands of Daniil Medvedev, he has appeared fatigued with a game ill-suited for the speed of the indoor season. But then he came out on Friday in Turin and played well to defeat Medvedev in surprisingly easy straight sets. The issues he had with the ice-rink-turned-tennis-court earlier in the week are a distant memory. Make no mistake: the Spaniard is going to come out fighting. And if Djokovic was a little less convincing against Hubert Hurkacz in his last round-robin match…well he’s still Novak Djokovic. He is the most clutch player perhaps of all time in big moments. This is going to be a barnburner, with the two top players in the sport. Who wins? Well, we all do. Tennis does. But also probably Djokovic. Djokovic in 3: 4-6, 7-6(8), 7-5.
Pete (Tennis Acumen): Several outlets absolutely insisted that “the torch had been passed” when Alcaraz narrowly defeated Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. Not so fast. A little more than a month later, the Serb reminded everyone that he was far from done winning titles and matches against Alcaraz, as he took the Cincinnati crown and kept on winning until the razor-thin loss to Sinner a few days ago. Following his loss to Zverev, Alcaraz openly questioned the quick conditions on court. He was able to adjust accordingly and win his next two matches, including his defeat of Daniil Medvedev for the third time in four attempts this year to advance to the semifinals atop the Red Group. Djokovic is fully aware that he is concurrently competing against Father Time at this point as well as against Alcaraz. That being said, he has capitalized on a bit of an abbreviated schedule this year and is right there in the mix at the year-end championship yet again. This event, match and opportunity to play for the title simply means more to Djokovic and he would certainly also like another possible shot at Sinner in the final. Djokovic in 3: 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).
(1G) Jannik Sinner vs. (2R) Daniil Medvedev
Ricky: It goes without saying that Sinner’s chances against Medvedev are dependent on his back being 100 percent. We will assume that’s the case, as he still managed to beat Holger Rune on Thursday despite dealing with some apparent issues. Sinner also gets a day off between matches, whereas the Red Group (Medvedev and Alcaraz) are playing back-to-backs. The Italian has quite simply been the best player all week long and is the only one who compiled an undefeated round-robin record. Home-court advantage is a very real thing in Turin. The Carota Boys and the rest of Italian fans have been nothing short of raucous and Sinner is thriving in large part thanks to the atmosphere. Of course, Medvedev is also playing great. This one could actually be of even better than Djokovic-Alcaraz from a quality standpoint. Their previous Nitto ATP Finals meeting went to a third-set tiebreaker, with Medvedev prevailing in 2021. I think this time it goes Sinner’s way. Sinner in 3: 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).
Cheryl: It’s altogether fitting that Sinner and Medvedev should round out the semifinal roster. In addition to Djokovic and Alcaraz, they were the best players of the season. And while Sinner is only just coming into his own and Medvedev has already achieved Grand Slam title success (2021 U.S. Open), it’s hard not to give Sinner the edge in this one. First, the Italian is playing in front of an adoring home crowd on a quick surface that suits his game well. And then there’s the edge that beating Medvedev twice in the past month will undoubtedly give Sinner. Mostly, though, he’s just playing better tennis than the Russian right now. He has been the standout player of the fall indoor swing, with titles in Beijing and Vienna to show for his efforts. Sinner in 3: 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5).
Pete: Up until 44 days ago, Sinner literally had no solution for Medvedev–dropping six consecutive meetings in the last three years to begin this H2H series while managing to win just three sets in those matches. However, the tables have turned. The Italian has won twice since early October in the Beijing final as well as the Vienna final. Both title matches were close, as Sinner won three of the four sets via the tiebreaker route. Medvedev has had a solid year collectively and–despite losing to Alcaraz to conclude round-robin play in Turin–is once again playing inspired tennis. Sinner’s victory over Djokovic earlier this week, in addition to rabid crowd support while competing in his home nation, have bolstered his confidence to monumental heights. The Sinner winning streaks will reach 10 overall, four in Turin, and three over Medvedev. Sinner in 3: 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3.